On February 6, KST, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol pardoned a total of 980 people for the Lunar New Year, one of the major holidays of the country. Shim Woo Jung, the acting Justice Minister, made the announcement of the names, which included an infamous name responsible for drafting a blacklist of artists critical of the government.
The existence of this blacklist was made known to the public for the first time in 2016 when the news outlet Hankook Ilbo reported that it had obtained the 100-page document. The list reportedly contained names of 9,472 artists, identified by the government led by former President Park Geun Hye. Her office sent this list to the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism in May 2015, ordering them to be denied financial and logistical support.
The list contained artists who either protested against the government’s handling of the 2014 Sewol Ferry disaster that claimed 204 lives, most of them high school students, or supported rival politicians in different elections.
Actor Song Kang Ho and director Park Chan Wook participated in a group declaration in May 2015, protesting against Park Geun Hye’s handling of the Sewol Ferry tragedy, and they were joined by directors Kim Jee Woon, Ryoo Seung Wan, and producer Kang Hye Jung. Actors Kim Hye Soo, Park Hae Il, and Kim Tae Woo had also signed the declaration. All 594 of the cultural figures who participated in this protest were reported to be on the blacklist, along with other industry giants like Bong Joon Ho and Cho Chong Nae.
In early 2017, Park Geun Hye was impeached and sentenced to 24 years in prison on 16 charges. Seven of her former aides were sentenced to prison as well for their roles in creating the blacklist, which included Kim Ki Choon, the former chief of staff to Park Geun Hye. Kim was given a three-year prison sentence in 2017. A judge said he was the head of the blacklist’s drafting process and found him guilty of abuse of power, coercion, and perjury.
With President Yoon’s pardon, Kim Ki Choon now has his prison terms commuted and his rights and privileges restored, which means though his criminal record still remains, he will be able to run for elections and have access to other rights that were suspended by his guilty verdict.
The other presidential pardons included soldiers who had kept illegal tabs on bereaved families of the Sewol ferry incident victims and MBC executives who took part in union busting.